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GDC Online 2010: Newtoy and Words with Friends' 10 million downloads

Newtoy is the company behind the popular Games With Friends brand on the App Store, featuring Chess With Friends and the extremely popular Words With Friends. If you're on Twitter, you probably already knew that Words With Friends was popular (it's all over the service), but you might not have realized just how popular. Newtoy's own David Bettner took the stage here at GDC Online 2010 in Austin, Texas for a panel and said that the game has had 10 million downloads so far. That's allowed him, his brother Paul, and their cousin to take Newtoy from a company of three people working on laptops in a library (though they admittedly had a lot of good experience as developers at Age of Empires dev Ensemble Studios) to a 30-person game studio with a bright future in what Bettner calls "turn-based asynchronous mobile gaming."

And that stat isn't the only interesting one that Bettner shared. Of those 10 million downloads, half have played the game in the last month. The Words With Friends app has two million daily active users and five million monthly active users. And of those users, 60% were brought in to the game by their friends (which makes for a very viral cocktail), and a whopping 40% play the app ten times or more per day.
Bettner says the app has gotten so big not because of marketing money (he has spent nearly nothing on advertising or marketing the app), but because friends are recommending it to friends through word of mouth. A mention in the popular Penny Arcade gaming comic and a tweet by John Mayer didn't hurt, either. The biggest downside has been that being popular means you've got to keep more and more servers up. Bettner said that the game is always just barely ahead of demand, and when it does fall behind, feedback from customers is quick and vicious.

In the future, Newtoy aims to add easier social integration into its Games With Friends brand, hooking up to Game Center or other social platforms in order to connect friends and share updates. Bettner also wants to experiment with the turn-based multiplayer model, trying out mechanics like timed turns or brand new game designs based completely on the genre and its "text message meets gaming" style of interaction. He briefly mentioned Words With Pirates (the popular pirate-style variant of the word game), and he confirmed that it was a "limited time only" thing that's now off the App Store and will probably see its servers turned off soon. He and his company are looking at other platforms for Games With Friends, including Android and beyond.

Stay tuned -- we will be chatting with Bettner later on this week about Games With Friends and Newtoy's collaboration with Ngmoco on We Rule; we'll have an interview posted here on TUAW afterward.

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